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Overgaard AZ
Black Mesa Ranger District 2748 Highway 260, Overgaard, AZ 85933

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests would like to inform the community that motorized access to National Forest lands at East Aspen/Jeep Trail road in Bigler Estates and Artist Draw Road in the Buckskin/Artist Draw community are no longer available to motorized users. These roads are privately owned and managed by the land owners and/or respective Home Owners Associations (HOA). To date, these communities have asserted their private property rights to close these long standing access points to the National Forest to the public.

The Forest Service has no authority over these roads, but is negotiating with the Buckskin/Artist Draw community on an agreement to secure access to Forest Road 9053 via the Artist Draw Road. Updates on these negotiations will occur in future press releases. Access to the National Forest via the East Aspen/Jeep Trail road in Bigler Estates will remain closed indefinitely.

While legal access to the National Forest no longer exists in the Bigler Estates area, the public can still legally access the area east of Overgaard at Halter Cross Road off Highway 277, or off Highway 260 in the Pierce Seep area at Forest Road 9886A and Phoenix Park Wash at Forest Road 9886M. Other access alternatives are being explored.

Background
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests manage and maintain nearly 2,600 miles of open public roads, approximately 1,000 miles are found on the Black Mesa Ranger District. The Apache-Sitgreaves, like any other National Forest, has primary jurisdiction only over the roads that exist on the National Forest.

Motorized access to and from this extensive road system from a community is provided at public access points, where all members of the public have equal access to the National Forest. Ideally, these points are located where a Forest Service road connects directly to a road that is maintained by a public agency such as a city, county, or state. In some cases, Forest Service roads connect to archaic private roads that are not controlled or maintained by a public agency such as the Forest Service or Navajo County. In these cases, public access is a privilege and authority and conditions of use over these access points are at the discretion of the landowners. In the last 18 months’ private land owners have implemented changes that effect two popular access points to National Forest lands in the community of Heber-Overgaard.

East Aspen/ Jeep Trail
The first access terminated by the neighborhood HOA was at Jeep Trail/ East Aspen in the Bigler Estates area in Overgaard. While this was a road used by residents since homes were built in the area, the road was not incorporated into the Navajo County road system, nor registered as a public easement to the adjoining National Forest boundary. The road is privately maintained by the HOA which bore the financial cost of frequent road repairs triggered by damage done by the over use and abuse of the road by the public. This constant road damage and accompanying noise of OHV traffic, prompted the private land owners and HOA to gate and close their private road to the public. While it is disappointing to lose this popular access point, the Forest Service has no authority over this private road. The Black Mesa Ranger District is currently working on a plan to finalize this closure by securing the Forest Service boundary in the Jeep Trail area.

While legal access to the National Forest no longer exists in the Bigler Estates area, the public can still legally access the area east of Overgaard at Halter Cross Road off Highway 277, or off Highway 260 in the Pierce Seep area at Forest Road 9886A and Phoenix Park Wash at Forest Road 9886M. Other access alternatives are being explored.

Artist Draw Road
Recently, at the request of the Buckskin Artists Community, Inc. (BAC) that owns and maintains Artist Draw Road in Heber, the Forest Service closed the motorized access gate at the National Forest boundary. Access to the Stermer Ridge area at Artist Draw Road was a privilege granted by the BAC which has allowed public access to the National Forest intermittently for decades. With the popularity of off-highway vehicles increasing exponentially, excessive motorized use of the road, dust, and excessive speed, the BAC has requested the closure of the road while they evaluate the further consequences of public use of their road. The Forest Service was compelled to close the existing gate at the forest boundary while the BAC makes their decision on the future of the road.

This restriction applies to the general public and BAC members alike. While motorized access to Stermer Ridge is currently restricted, the HOA has entered into a written agreement to continue to allow pedestrian traffic to cross the private property to access the existing pedestrian gate at the forest boundary. Currently access is limited to non-motorized travel such as foot, horseback, and bicycle traffic. The BAC has been working closely with the Forest Service and Navajo County while it reviews future options for Artist Draw Road.

Alternative and secure motorized access to the Stermer Ridge, Artist Draw area exists 2 miles to the north via Black Canyon / Forest Road 86 or 2.5 miles to the east via Forest Road 50 at Tall Timbers Park. All Off-Highway Vehicles must be registered through the state as street legal to lawfully use any forest road maintained for high visitor comfort, including Stermer Ridge/Forest Road 9053. All Arizona State laws that apply to Off Highway Vehicle Use apply on and off the Forest.

Please be considerate and safe
It is important to remember that when accessing National Forest land, it is in the public’s best interest to be considerate of neighboring land owners. By adhering to local and state laws as well as common courtesy regarding speed, dust, and noise, the public plays its part in keeping motorized access safe, respectful, and available for use. If you have further questions about motorized access onto the forest, please contact the Black Mesa Ranger District at (928)535-7300.

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